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KC fury at BBC’s ‘exposé’


THE KENNEL club and dog breeders have been left furious after the screening on the BBC this week, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which promised to ‘blow the whistle’ on the suffering of many of Britain’s pedigree dogs.

The programme, screened on Tuesday evening at 9pm, has left breeders and dog owners reeling after claims of inbreeding and the quest to achieve the ultimate dog has resulted in diseases and deformities suffered by many of Britain's five million pedigree dogs. Viewers saw dogs suffering seizures, epileptic fits and caesareans, as well as debilitating heart murmurs and cancers.

Breeds singled out included Golden Retriever, the Cavalier, the Boxer, the Pekingese, the Bulldog and the Pug with producers claiming that breeders are 'playing God with dogs',
The producers of the film have used shocking scenes in the documentary - including a Boxer having an epileptic fit and a King Charles spaniel writhing in agony because its skull is apparently too small for its brain. It has been reported that the BBC is considering ending its 42-year connection with Crufts, although sources also suggest it could be the other way round!

Speculation

A media frenzy has ensued on TV, radio and the general press with one paper claiming that there has also been speculation that the Queen could cut her ties with the Kennel Club. Buckingham Palace correctly said it could not comment on speculation.

KC press representative Bill Lambert appeared on the Jeremy Vine Show together with his Bull Terrier. News broadcasts included the item throughout Tuesday prior to the show largely fuelled by the pre broadcast preview on Monday in London, and subsequent announcements by organisations like the RSPCA.

The programme-makers say that the ‘exposé’ is the culmination of a two-year investigation into dog breeders and exhibitors’ striving for perfection in their breed leaving breed such as the Golden Retriever prone to cancer, Labradors with joint and eye problems, WHWTs with allergies and Boxers risking heart disease, epilepsy and cancer. It also claimed that Pugs are so inbred that although there are around 10,000 in Britain, their DNA could come from just 50 dogs. The programme even went back to Danny, Bert Easdon’s 2003 Crufts winning Pekingese, allegedly sat on an ice pack while being photographed afterwards to stop him overheating because of genetic breathing problems.

Many people have been quick to comment on OUR DOGS web site and other sources that many of these problems are already well documented and that the Kennel Club has been working on them for many years, and that the programme has brought nothing new to light.

The programme did not mention that Breed Standards are only ratified by the KC, though are in actual fact set by breed clubs and associations. Nor do the KC advise ‘culling’ dogs which do not meet exact standards.

Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London, said: 'If dog breeders insist on going further down that road, I can say with confidence that there is a universe of suffering waiting for many of these breeds and many, if not most, will not survive.'

In an e-mail dated February 2006, the programme’s producer, Jemima Harrison from Passionate Productions, approached the Kennel Club Press Office suggesting that a part of the film would be dedicated to the history of the KC and its principles and aims. Ms Harrison also suggested that the production company was keen to learn of the KC’s plans to maintain and improve the health of pedigree dogs for the future. This point was not, it seems, made clear in the programme, perhaps due to bad or selective editing.

The initial idea was mooted in February 2006 as a documentary on canine genetics, including some history of the KC and its plans and ongoing work to address some key health issues affecting a small number of breeds. The programme’s purpose was essentially a hopeful one, showing how science and breeders could work together.

Last month the KC contacted Eamon Hardy, the documentary's executive producer, to re-iterate their points regarding health issues. In the letter Caroline Kisko told Mr Hardy that health issues were a complex matter with no ‘easy-fix’ solutions and that the KC relied solely on persuasion when it came to asking breeders for help. Mrs Kisko further asked that the KC be presented ‘fairly’ in the programme.

In yet a further letter to him later last month, the KC expressed their concern about the ‘tone’ of some questions which had been asked interviewees and the worry that these questions should perhaps have been directed at the KC rather than individuals. The letter also pointed out that many overseas kennel clubs were taking their lead from the KC, and implementing similar positive changes regarding pedigree dogs and health.

The Accredited Breeders Scheme, Charitable Trust and Fit for purpose, fit for life were giving no noticeable airtime whatsoever.

Eamon Hardy this week told press that in light of this programme, the BBC may request a meeting with the Kennel Club to discuss the implications and potential impact of the film.

OUR DOGS’ reporter Polly King attended the press screening last Monday morning, see her in-depth comments and more here.